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Super Committee: The Deficit Dozen / SUPER COMMITTEE

Who Wants the Super Committee to Fail?

Members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction hold a public hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 26.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

November 17, 2011

Atlantic Wire

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Despite vociferous claims from leaders in both parties that the super committee must not fail, a narrow coalition of actors inside and outside of government are rooting for the deficit-reduction panel to choke on gridlock and collapse in its final days of negotiations. It's not a unified movement: Liberals and conservatives both have their reasons for hoping the bipartisan committee tasked with trimming $1.2 trillion fails to submit a proposal by the Nov. 23 deadline. But here's the landscape of people who are hoping it will blow that deadline.

Pundits. The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne was adamant about the benefits of a stalemate in his Wednesday column. For starters, that means the Bush tax cuts won't be extended in the near term (a measure currently being contemplated), which would  cut $7.1 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years. "That’s right. If Congress simply fails to act... the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush expire, $1.2 trillion in additional budget cuts go through under the terms of last summer’s debt-ceiling deal, and a variety of other tax cuts also go away. ... That’s why a 'failure' by the super committee to endorse a deeply flawed deal is actually a victory for sensible deficit reduction."

 

And then there's The Huffington Post's Eric Sapp, who compares sequestration (an automatic round of across-the-board cuts that happens if the committee fails) to the likely set of proposals Democrats and Republicans might agree on. "The only deal that would be worth it for [Republicans] is one with larger total cuts to entitlements and spending (much more heavily weighted against social programs than in the triggers, which are split evenly between domestic and defense). In exchange for that, they might give up the most egregious tax loopholes they've never cared about anyway." As a result, he's arguing "against the super committee, because triggers will be better than anything the super committee can come up with that will pass the House."

The advocacy groups. With the news on Wednesday that two of the committee's staunchest anti-tax Republicans, Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, are now pressing colleagues to agree to hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax hikes, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity is in overdrive trying to scuttle a deal. The Washington Post reports that "the group invited constituents in Virginia and Florida to call in to telephone town hall meetings Wednesday night and purchased radio ads in five states charging that the members 'don’t get it' when it comes to tax policy." While not openly advocating failure, it effectively amounts to the same thing, as Democrats have said spending cuts with no tax increases is a nonstarter.

In a more outspoken stance against the committee, the liberal group Campaign for America's Future has openly stated it hopes the committee fails. "If a drunken bus driver were careening down the wrong road that leads directly off a steep cliff, we would want him to fail. That is exactly the case with the Super Committee," Robert Borosage, the group's co-director, said yesterday. As The Hill's Mike Lillis explained, the group says "the cuts required to reach a grand bargain would destroy safety-net programs for low-income people and whisk the country back into a recession."

The members of Congress. Though members of Congress aren't outwardly advocating failure (this is politics after all), it's clear both Democrats and Republicans have their reasons to oppose a deal. Merrill Goozner at The Fiscal Times explains the calculus. "Less than a year before an election in which every elected branch of government will be up for grabs, the prospect that a majority of Republicans in the House will go along with any measure that increases taxes remains remote since it will alienate Tea Party stalwarts and violate Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform anti-tax pledge," he writes. "For Democrats struggling to hold on to the Senate and hopeful of reclaiming the House, cutting entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security will weaken their appeal to the key senior constituency ahead of next year’s campaign." For candid remarks, Rep. Henry Waxman is one legislator who appears outwardly OK about the idea of the committee failing. “I don’t see any reason why there ought to be any impact on the market if the Super Committee doesn’t meet its fixed deadline by the end of this year,” he said. “The deficit reductions are still going to be achieved in a sequestration in 2013. We still have a whole year to figure out those reductions.”

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